He looked a shadow of himself- Our father. He was struggling to say what he wanted to say. That was unusual of my father. He was never like that. He looked as one who hasn’t caught enough sleep lately. He looked confused and puzzled. He seemed to have lost all the words he knew how to say to musing at us as though he pitied and feared for us. He opened and closed his mouth, yet no sounds came out. He shivered all over his body. Neither of us moved nor said a word, we only exchanged quizzical looks that showed our wondering if our father was alright.
We were all calmly sitted waiting for our father to talk or begin the meeting. It was the first time he ever called to ask every one of us, his children to return home for a family meeting. The urgency in his voice and the dire need with which he conveyed his message over the phone set us alarmed. Three of my older siblings had called simultaneously just after our father hung up after he had summoned me for the family meeting. They felt I would have a clue being my father’s closest child. But I had no answers. Our mother was more bothered than four of us put together.
We all sat after dinner to listen to what our father would say. He turned and opened the file next to him brought out a typed written piece which he handed to the oldest of his children with his hand shaking. My heart pounded at that instance, several thoughts of what the paper could contain ran through my mind.
My older brother passed it to my older sister, the first among the girls, who passed it to my immediate elder sister who passed it to me. Yet neither of them said a word. A tear dropped from the eyes of my immediate elder sister when she passed me the paper and went to where my mother was and sank into the seat next to her, embracing her and whispering gently to her. I wondered why no one said a word as I hastily looked through the paper I had.
I noticed my father seemed a bit comfortable now. He started recounting stories of the marriage, the courtship, the hard times, the good times, stories we have all heard and could tell better than him. He confessed that our mother had done nothing wrong. “But I have to do this”, he said.
He went on to say that he has been cheating almost all through the marriage. I noticed my elder brother’s mouth opened and closed yet no words came out. The oldest of the girls stood and walked from one end to another evidently trying to conceal her emotions. I fought back the tears that gathered in my eyes.
He continued by adding that the whole cheating became less three years ago after he met someone that he loves, someone he can die for, someone he wished he had met earlier, someone he said had stayed under our roof, someone whose name he mentioned. The divorce paper I was still holding fell off my hand and those tears that I have fought fell off my eyes. “Jesus Christ!” I shouted feeling guilty as I was the one who introduced our father’s lover to my family.
My elder brother now spoke or rather shouted. He shouted in such vexation that I have never seen him in. My father was calm all the time my elder brother shouted at him. He said he would disown my father if the divorce process wasn’t stopped, then he stormed out of the sitting room angrily with our mother rushingly following him for reasons I couldn’t make out.
The older of the girls queried our father on what she would tell her children happened to their grandfather, on what she would say brought about the divorce and why it had come when it came. She tossed questions upon questions on our father until she probably ran out of questions and sat.
My immediate elder sister threw her wedding invitation card on the table asking our father who he intends would sign her wedding documents on her wedding day in a month time. She asked him what impression her husband’s people would have about our family.
I was so speechless. Dumb more to say as all of us knew deep down us that nothing said or done would alter a thing considering how stubborn and obstinate our father could be. It pained me greatly that the 38 years marriage is ending this way, that my induction into the medical profession wouldn’t have my family together, that our father, no my father is leaving my mother for my boyfriend few weeks after gay marriage was legalized in Nigeria.